Pieces of Home When Adjusting to Life Abroad

I created a bucket list of things to do in my new Dutch city of Groningen (with a German boyfriend), but after I created it, I felt a bit like I’ve wasted my time thus far – two months in to my journey.

 So I decided to do the opposite both, and write out all the things I originally wanted to find abroad before I left the States, and have since found in my daily living and wanderings. Things that make me feel a bit closer to home and make my new surroundings  that much more friendly.

Photographing GroningenAlways looking for the next thing to photograph

Groningen Bucket List:

1. Master the bike dance – enjoy entering a busy roundabout instead of dreading it.
2. Boat ride – The canals look so inviting!
3. More Dutch food – there are many fish-thingies I have yet to try at the Fish Market.
4. The Hauge – Everything seems to be there – and where Obama goes for important meetings!
5. Southern Netherlands – Anywhere, I’ve heard it’s beautiful.
6. Visit the Marlin Manson Museum – the Monet Exibit!
7. View a show at the Oosterport Theater.
8. Go to a movie at the Pathe Theater.

The Little things I’ve accomplished – adjusting to the Dutch (and German) life:

1. Found: English used book store – This was top on my list, and I only just found it at the end of my second month here.  A rack of books outside a shop in the street with a 1 Euro sign will get me to stop every time. Turns out, they were all in English! Gold mine.  The best coincidence? I recently proclaimed The Poisonwood Bible by Barbra Kingsolver as my new favorite (tied of course with Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things), and low and behold, there was another Barbra Kingsolver book.  It was meant to be on all fronts.

2. Found: Favorite coffee/wine shop – This one I admit I received help from H on. It is a large cafe/pizzeria/bar tucked in a little courtyard near the university.  Large with oversized couches and tree trunk wooden stumps as tables, and a large dining area in the back with dozens of old coo-coo clocks on the walls.  I order a machiato and can sit for a few hours un-bothered with their amazing internet and plug ins.  It turns into a pretty chic bar around 5 pm, when they light all the candles and it fills up pretty quickly.  Amazing wine for under 3 Euros.

European CafeWine and coffee – the perfect mix

3. Found: Knitting shop and stand – I am pretty proud of finding a shop and a yarn booth (they have craft booths open every week in the city center!).  The owner even wished me ‘good luck’ with a big smile in halting English.

4. Found: Affordable farmers market – What. Best find ever.  I go to the farmers markets in the US and WISH the prices were this amazing.  I wish it was more than
once a week!

European Farmers MarketFresh and inexpensive fruits and veggies!

5. Found: Dollar store version, Euro store  I love myself a good bargain.  Second hand, vintage, used, inexpensive, whatever. I love it.

6. Know: Three neighborhood cats – As it would be cruel to own a cat in our small studio I have a special affinity towards my neighborhood cats.  There are three that I pass regularly on my way to yoga.  They make me feel at home!

7. Found: Fancy version of Target – Hemma.  It has a little food area like IKEA, multi levels of items like sunscreen to candles to chocolates to great makeup and accessories.  All with affordable prices in a polished background. Need I say more?

8. Found: Cheap grocery store – Funny enough the inexpensive grocery store with the great deals is German. Aldi.

9. Found: Salsa/cilantro – Again, win with the food markets!  Inexpensive fresh produce twice a week in the town center.  I almost died when I spotted the cilantro four weeks into my Chipoltle/Illegal Pete’s food craving.  The salsa comes in the size of jars I eat in one sitting.

10. Experienced: Biking long distances – I have totally had the burning thighs because of this, but I’ve done it.  Biking all over this city!

11. Experienced: Different beers and wines, local food – Fried fish, doner (German), french fries in cones with mayonnaise, pizza with a knife and fork.  Favorite beer? A Polish one (oops), Raddler anything (lemonade mixed with beer, a German specialty for younger folk and old people. I love it!), Heineken on tap anywhere we go in the Netherlands.

Dutch BeerThe perfect spot to people watch and sip fancy beer

12. Living in a 350 sq. ft. studio with boyfriend – We are actually enjoying it, and haven’t killed each other.  Success!

13. Experienced: Shopping and sipping in a European city – I love that most sunny afternoons you can see people sitting out in front of cafes and bars sipping wine and coffees in the sun chatting all over the city center.  The same with shops in beautiful old buildings lined up directly next to one another.  Shop and sip!

14. Found: Library to work at comfortably – The local university library is easy to walk into and has students studying on multiple levels for a great work background. Makes me feel young again – and glad I’m done with my MBA!

15. Found: Yoga studio to teach and take class – Even though the classes I take are in Dutch, I follow along easily enough and have an amazing community of like-minded people.  The first studio I inquired at had a welcoming owner that invited me to teach the hot class after she auditioned me the same week .  It feels great to have a second home – I now know no matter where I live, I will always be able to find a yoga person, studio or community to feel welcomed into.

16. Found: Favorite parks to sit, read and sun – Working from home makes me go a little stir-crazy, as much of a blessing as it is to work in PJ’s.   I break free for an hour around lunch, and frequent a few local parks (Groningen is great about the green spots and parks everywhere).  Many have small lakes, ponds or canals I walk along and feel instant peace.  As a water-city and so close to the sea, there are a ton of different bird/duck/water bird varieties to watch. Just don’t get too close!

Wildlife in EuropeThis guy got way too close for comfort –
What? It would hurt if they bite!

If you are in a new place or space, what things or locations make you feel less homesick and at peace?


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